Hymn of the Pearl

From the Acts of Thomas

From pre-earth to exaltation the Hymn of the Pearl reflects the plan of salvation, and exaltation as the traveler must leave the home of his “Father” and from this pre-earth home he is sent (from the east) to the earth.  With a veil of forgetfulness the traveler must find the gospel over come Satan (the dragon) with letters and messengers for the “Father” the traveler remembers the greater glory, and the promises made there.  After death he is welcomed into the  presence of his parents and given the “garment” he left that fit only him but was now much more glorious.


[Here follows the Hymn of the Pearl or Soul: a most remarkable composition, originally Syriac, and certainly older than the Acts, with which it has no real connexion. We have it in Greek in one manuscript, the Vallicellian, and in a paraphrase by Nicetas of Thessalonica, found and edited by Bonnet.]

1 When I was an infant child in the palace of my Father

2 and resting in the wealth and luxury of my nurturers, out of the East, our native country, my parents provisioned me and sent me.

4 And of the wealth of those their treasures they put together a load

5 both great and light, that I might carry it alone.

6 Gold is the load, of them that are above (or of the land of the Ellaeans or Gilaeans), and silver of the great treasures (or of Gazzak the great)

7 and stones, chalcedonies from the Indians and pearls from the Kosani (Kushan).

8 And they armed me with adamant

9 and they took off from me (Gr. put on me) the garment set with gems, spangled with gold, which they had made for me because they loved me

10 and the robe that was yellow in hue, made for my stature.

11 And they made a covenant with me, and inscribed it on mine understanding, that I should forget it, and said:

12 If thou go down into Egypt , and bring back thence the one pearl

13 which is there girt about by the devouring serpent

14 thou shalt put on the garment set with gems, and that robe whereupon it resteth (or which is thereon)

15 and become with thy brother that is next unto us (Gr. of the well- remembered) an heir (Gr. herald) in our kingdom.

109. 16 And I came out of the East by a road difficult and fearful, with two guides

17 and I was untried in travelling by it.

18 And I passed by the borders of the Mosani (Maishan) where is the resort of the merchants of the East,

19 and reached the land of the Babylonians .

20 But when I entered into Egypt , the guides left me which had journeyed with me.

21 And I set forth by the quickest way to the serpent, and by his hole I abode

22 watching for him to slumber and sleep, that I might take my pearl from him.

23 And forasmuch as I was alone I made mine aspect strange, and appeared as an alien to my people.

24 And there I saw my kinsman from the East, the free-born

25 a lad of grace and beauty, a son of princes (or an anointed one).

26 He came unto me and dwelt with me,

27 and I had him for a companion, and made him my friend and partaker in my journey (or merchandise).

28 And I charged him to beware of the Egyptians, and of partaking of those unclean things (or consorting with those unclean men).

29 And I put on their raiment, lest I should seem strange, as one that had come from without

30 to recover the pearl; and lest the Egyptians should awake the serpent against me.

31 But, I know not by what occasion, they learned that I was not of their country.

32 And with guile they mingled for me a deceit, and I tasted of their food.

33 And I knew no more that I was a king's son, and I became a servant unto their king.

34 And I forgat also the pearl for which my fathers had sent me,

35 and by means of the heaviness of their food I fell into a deep sleep.

110. 36 But when this befell me, my fathers also were ware of it, and grieved for me

37 and a proclamation was published in our kingdom, that all should meet at our doors.

38 And then the kings of Parthia and they that bare office and the great ones of the East

39 made a resolve concerning me, that I should not be left in Egypt ,

40 and the princes wrote unto me signifying thus (and every noble signed his name to it, Syr.):

41 From the (thy) Father the King of kings, and thy mother that ruleth the East,

42 and thy brother that is second unto us; unto our son that is in Egypt , peace.

43 Rise up and awake out of sleep, and hearken unto the words of the letter

44 and remember that thou art a son of kings; lo, thou hast come under the yoke of bondage.

45 Remember the pearl for the which thou wast sent into Egypt (Gr. puts this after 46).

46 Remember thy garment spangled with gold,

47 Thy name is named in the book of life,

48 and with thy brother whom thou hast received in our kingdom.

111. 49 and the King [as ambassador] sealed it

50 because of the evil ones, even the children of the Babylonians and the tyrannous demons of Labyrinthus (Sarbug, Syr.).


52 It flew and lighted down by me, and became all speech.>

53 And I at the voice of it and the feeling of it started up out of sleep

54 and I took it up and kissed it and read it.

55 And it was written concerning that which was recorded in mine heart.

56 And I remembered forthwith that I was a son of kings, and my freedom yearned (sought) after its kind.

57 I remembered also the pearl for the which I was sent down into Egypt

58 and I began (or came) with charms against the terrible serpent,

59 and I overcame him (or put him to sleep) by naming the name of my Father upon him,

60 .

61 And I caught away the pearl and turned back to bear it unto my fathers.

62 And I stripped off the filthy garment and left it in their land,

63 and directed my way forthwith to the light of my fatherland in the East.

64 And on the way I found my letter that had awakened me,

65 and it, like as it had taken a voice and raised me when I slept, so also guided me with the light that came from it.

66 For at times the royal garment of silk before mine eyes,


68 and with love leading me and drawing me onward,

69 I passed by Labyrinthus (Sarbug), and I left Babylon upon my left hand

70 and I came unto Meson (Mesene; Maishan) the great,

71 that lieth on the shore of the sea,


73 from the heights of Warkan (Hyrcania?) had my parents sent thither

74 by the hand of their treasurers, unto whom they committed it because of their faithfulness>.

112. 75 But I remembered not the brightness of it; for I was yet a child and very young when I had left it in the palace ot my Father,

76 but suddenly, [when] I saw the garment made like unto me as it had been in a mirror.

77 And I beheld upon it all myself (or saw it wholly in myself) and I knew and saw myself through it,

78 that we were divided asunder, being of one; and again were one in one shape.

79 Yea, the treasurers also which brought me the garment

80 I beheld, that they were two, yet one shape was upon both, one royal sign was set upon both of them.

81 The money and the wealth had they in their hands, and paid me the due price,

82 and the lovely garment, which was variegated with bright colours

83 with gold and precious stones and pearls of comely hue

84 they were fastened above (or in the height)

85 .

86 And the likeness of the King of kings was all in all of it.

87 Sapphire stones were fitly set in it above (or, like the sapphire stone also were its manifold hues).

113. 88 And again I saw that throughout it motions of knowledge were being sent forth,

89 and it was ready to utter speech.

90 And I heard it speak :

91 I am of him that is more valiant than all men, for whose sake I was reared up with the Father himself.

92 And I also perceived his stature (so Gr.- Syr. I perceived in myself that my stature grew in accordance with his working).

93 And all its royal motions rested upon me as it grew toward the impulse of it (And with its kingly motions it was spreading itself toward me).

94 And it hastened, reaching out from the hand of unto him that would receive it

95 and me also did yearning arouse to start forth and meet it and receive it.

96 And I stretched forth and received it, and adorned myself with the beauty of the colours thereof (mostly Syr.; Gr. corrupt)

97 and in my royal robe excelling in beauty I arrayed myself wholly.

98 And when I had put it on, I was lifted up unto the place of peace (sahltation) and homage

99 and I bowed my head and worshipped the brightness of the Father which had sent it unto me.

100 for I had performed his commandments, and he likewise that which he had promised,

101 and at the doors of his palace which was from the beginning I mingled among ,

102 and he rejoiced over me and received me with him into his palace,

103 and all his servants do praise him vvith sweet voices.

104 And he promised me that with him I shall be sent unto the gates of the king,

105 that with my gifts and my pearl we may appear together before the king.